Toronto FC’s starting XI has been terrific in pre-season play.
After that, it has been a pretty slippery slope.
For the third straight match at the Coachella Valley Invitational near Palm Springs, Calif., TFC’s second unit let the team down, prompting concerns about the club’s overall depth.
Coach Bob Bradley started what is essentially his top XI again on Wednesday afternoon against the Portland Timbers and his squad jumped ahead 2-0 in the first half.
Italian winger Federico Bernardeschi put TFC ahead 1-0 on a penalty kick. Veteran midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who is coming back from a lower leg knock, scored to put the Reds up 2-0. But Portland tied it up 2-2 in the final 45 minutes against TFC’s second unit and that’s how the game ended.
The Reds are 1-2 at the tournament.
Bradley placed new forward Adama Diomande in the starting XI.
“We’re moving him along a little bit slower just to get him physically right,” said Bradley of Diomande, who was signed by TFC last month. “He’s not yet 100% doing all the things that I know he can do for our team. But I still thought it was positive to see what he was able to do in the first half.”
MARSHALL-RUTTY LIKELY STAYING PUT
Jayden Nelson, the 20-year-old winger the Reds sold to Norwegian elite side Rosenborg last week, had expressed an interest in playing in Europe. Another promising youngster on Toronto’s roster, 18-year-old fullback/winger Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, has garnered a lot of interest over the last few years from some top European clubs and there was talk that he also would be sold to an overseas club during the current pre-season.
However, Bradley now expects Marshall-Rutty to open the MLS regular season with TFC.
“I think that it’s been a good pre-season for Jahkeele. We’ve challenged him in real ways to be more consistent, to train better every day,” said Bradley. “Last year he started out so brightly, the (knee) injury set him back, when he returned after the injury I think he lost a little bit of just everyday consistency being tuned in for every play in training. So the general challenge for him throughout pre-season is just … can he keep himself going in training everyday? Can he be more aware of situations around him? Take in more information? And just be more tuned in all the time? I think generally speaking that’s been better. He’s played as a right-back, he’s played a little bit further up the field at times, so there is some versatility there and I would say overall it’s been a pretty solid pre-season and at the moment the expectation is that he will be with us as we start the season.”
TFC coach Bob Bradley admits that depth is a concern with the regular season looming
TFC NOTEBOOK: Reds awaiting the arrival of Adama Diomande
Marshall-Rutty, who played the second half against Portland on Wednesday, appeared in 17 games last year, starting five, and did not score.
The Reds open the MLS regular season on Feb.25 at DC United with the home opener at BMO Field on March 11 against the Columbus Crew.
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